Eighth- and ninth-grade students at St. Edmond Catholic School each received something special Tuesday ahead of their first day of school: an Apple MacBook.
The students received the laptops as part of the Catholic school's one-to-one program, which provides each student with a laptop for academic and personal use. In December, the one-to-one program initiated with a rollout of laptops to its high school students and will further expand in the future. The laptops are the property of the school and are to be returned at the end of the year, not unlike textbooks.
Before receiving the laptops, students and their parents or guardians attended a special presentation on laptop safety.
Detective Corey Husske, Fort Dodge Police Department computer forensics examiner, offered words of warning to the students about the Internet and their personal security.
Husske said the students would essentially be putting their lives and information out into the world. For example, taking personal pictures and posting them on a social network site such as Facebook.
"Whatever it is you put out there, it goes out into the universe and it's out there forever," he warned. "You can delete that picture off your computer, and it's not gone. This applies to everyone and all computers. Anything that's on your computer, remains on your computer."
Husske told how after December's rollout he figured out the names of most of the students he had spoken to in one class, created a fake Facebook account and then solicited "Friend" responses from those students, which, if accepted, granted him access to all their personal information.
"Out of 30 students that I tried to add, two of them said no," he said. "So I knew when everybody was going on vacation, I knew so-and-so was in a fight with so-and-so. That makes my life easier if you want to add me, but I don't have any bad intentions toward you. The public may not be so innocent."
Husske assured the students, though, that their privacy would not be used as a means of invading their privacy. They should, however, always be thoughtful of their actions.
The detective also had words for the parents.
"It's your responsibility that these kids have these computers as much as it is theirs," Husske said. "Get familiar with the technology they're using, get familiar with the programs they're using. If you don't know what a peer-to-peer program is or social networking, you need to get up to speed on that stuff."
Husske also advocated that the parents made sure they knew who their children are friends with. Also, what their passwords are, in case of an emergency or worse. He also advocated openness, to allow their children to be comfortable using their laptops in front of them.
"Otherwise, you've got a barrier between you that's going to cause nothing but trouble," he said.
John Howard, St. Edmond High School principal, spoke next about the school's policy toward the laptops. Specifically, conduct and maintenance guidelines. The penalty for using the laptops inappropriately was loss of Internet privileges, but not use of the laptop itself.
Howard explained to parents and students that sites promoting gambling, as well as social network sites, including Facebook and Twitter, were blocked. The laptops can also be inspected by the school's faculty at any time.
Following the previous year's rollout, only five laptops were damaged in some way out of 250 laptops issued to students and 75 to faculty, Howard said.
"We own the computers, but it is yours. So treat them as your own," he said. "This is your responsibility."